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  • Considering that the issue of EUTHANASIA, connected with diverse types of behaviour arising or not from the course of medical activity, has been the subject of public debate, as much in the mass media as in the interrogations people are faced with - on which, sometimes, they are called to give an opinion;
  • considering that one of the contributing factors to the frequency with which the issue is referred to, and even understood, is the development of a culture wherein suffering and pain are denied and death and transcendence rejected;
  • considering that this cultural attitude and the acritical transmission of information in this field generate a tendency to accept the “concept” of EUTHANASIA - a good example is the Dutch legislative initiative and the way it has been publicised;
  • considering that - instead of a correct qualification of “euthanasia”, such as may be found in points 4 and 5 of the preceding Report - one frequently sees the same term applied to situations that bear no relation to “euthanasia” and merit quite a different analysis;
    considering that it is only possible to analyse EUTHANASIA, as in other issues connected with the unsurpassed value of life, by placing it in a humanistic, axiological and ethical framework;
  • considering  that, even though the issue of EUTHANASIA does not constitute an acute problem in Portugal, the Council deemed it opportune to deliberate upon it and contribute to its serene discussion and informed understanding, thus preventing the greater risk of a priori opinions and prejudices being created;

The NATIONAL COUNCIL OF ETHICS FOR THE LIFE SCIENCES, basing itself on the essentials of the preceding REPORT, issues the following OPINION:

  • that there is no ethical, social, moral, or juridical argument, nor one pertaining to the deontology of the health professions, that theoretically justifies making it legally possible for anyone to kill a patient intentionally (even if the person has not been declared or assumed as a patient), and especially by medical decision, even under pretext of this being “by request” and/or “out of compassion”;
  • that there is, therefore, no argument that justifies acts of euthanasia, because of the respect due to the human person and to life;
  • that it is ethical to interrupt disproportionate and ineffective treatments, all the more so when these cause distress and suffering to the patient, so that such an interruption, albeit shortening the life span, cannot be considered as euthanasia;
  • that it is ethical to administer medication destined to alleviate the patient’s pain, even if it may cause, as a secondary effect, a reduction of the foreseeable life span, this being an attitude that likewise cannot be considered as euthanasia;
  • that acceptance of euthanasia by civil society and by the law would lead patients to lose trust in his/her physician and health care teams, and that it could lead to an uncontrollable liberalisation of the “license to kill” and to barbarity;
  • that, none the less, the rejection of acts of euthanasia as sham individual rights of physicians (or others) and patients (or others), also creates individual and social obligations that cannot be minimised or forgotten, namely and especially:
    - the private and public responsibility of attending adequately to terminal patients and to handicapped and dependent people of any sort;

    - the practise of providing continuous care to the dependent person, with absolute respect for their dignity and integrity as human beings;

    - the creation and maintenance of conditions to offer caring medicine (palliative medicine) to anyone who might need it;

    - supporting research into pain treatment, and supporting the creation of groups specialised in this field of medical care;

    - achieving a high level of preparation in medical and nursing training, at undergraduate and post-graduate level, so that health professionals are prepared and able to assume consciously their ethical responsibilities to the patients delivered into their care, especially those who enter a terminal stage and ought to die with dignity.

Lisbon, June 7th, 1995

The Reporter,                                                      

The CNECV President


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